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Boy Scout Gear List: Philmont Scout Ranch, New Mexico, Summer

Philmont Guidebook to Adventure: "Remember, the key to successful backpacking is to go lightly."

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by Doug Prosser | 2006-04-19 03:00:00-06


Boy Scout Gear List: Philmont Scout Ranch, New Mexico, Summer - 1
Rock climbing at Cow Camp, Philmont 2004.
Courtesy of Larry Keil, ASM, Troop 815, Danville, CA

Whenever you walk around base camp at Philmont Scout Ranch during the summer you will see the "cripples": Boy Scouts, mostly adult leaders, who have broken down on the trail and had to be removed from their crew and evacuated from the backcountry. They are almost always limping but quite often you will find them hobbling around with crutches. For each one you see in the base camp there are many more on the trails that are just barely making it and regretting their decision to come to Philmont. Why is this happening when Philmont is one of the great adventures in Scouting? The two most common errors are insufficient training and carrying too much weight. When these two errors happen simultaneously that person has created a dangerous situation for himself, and his crew.

Philmont publishes a pamphlet, Philmont Guidebook to Adventure, which gives Scouts information on the Philmont experience, the training, and equipment needed to hike its trails. The equipment list is extensive (read "heavy"), with lots of gear and multiple sets of clothing. Most people who read this pamphlet assume that this is the recommended list of equipment to bring to Philmont. It is not! There is one paragraph in this pamphlet that is the key to your success at Philmont that most people miss:

Gathering Your Equipment

Backpacking requires proper equipment just as any outdoor sport. Without suitable equipment you will face unnecessary hardships. Take only what you need. After several overnight camps you should be able to conduct your own shakedown to eliminate items you didn't need. Remember, the key to successful backpacking is to go lightly. Check your equipment against the recommended lists on page 12 and 13. This is the maximum. All backpackers can reduce this list and still be comfortable, clean, and safe.

Philmont Guidebook to Adventure 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2006

The above paragraph sounds like something Ray Jardine wrote instead of the Boy Scouts of America. Statements like "take only what you need," "eliminate items you don't need," and "the key to successful backpacking is to go lightly" have been heard for years throughout the lightweight backpacking community.

This article will show you a reasonable list of gear and techniques that will allow you to carry a lighter pack and truly enjoy the wonders Philmont has to offer.

When I asked my 18-year-old son (Philmont trek 2002, Rayado 2003) how others or I could lighten our packs, his immediate response was, "Bring your 18-year-old son and give him all your gear." He was joking, of course, but there's a lot of wisdom in this statement. At Philmont you function as a "crew" or team. You succeed or fail as this team. If you have immensely strong Scouts they can and should carry more of the group gear than the weaker ones, whether boys or leaders. This allows the whole crew to move the most efficiently around Philmont.

Philmont assigns a Ranger to your crew for the intake process and to hike with you for a few days. The Ranger will get your crew through the intake process, ensure that you bring the appropriate gear, and train the crew on Philmont techniques. Your particular Ranger is the one you need to convince concerning the clothing and equipment you bring. Many people who frequent Backpacking Light will know a bit more about backpacking than your average 18-22 year old Ranger, but please do not harass them. Just take the time to explain yourself and your choices and most of the time they will go along with your choices. I recommend that you not challenge them on anything to do with bear protection. In 2002 we wanted to bring lighter ropes and bags, but our Ranger disagreed. We took the Philmont ropes and bags. In 2005 we had a similar event. I cannot see them approving the Bozeman Mountain Works AirCore Pro URSA Dyneema Bear Bag Hanging Rope even though it may be a better and lighter choice.

Philmont does a really good job of having thousands of Scouts camping in close proximity to lots of bears with very few problems and needs to be congratulated for their efforts to keep everyone safe.


The gear on the list below was selected specifically to meet the requirements of Philmont Scout Ranch while being as light as possible. Although the list was compiled for Boy Scouts and Scout Leaders attending Philmont, it will work equally well for others interested in a lighter pack.

  • Seasons: Summer - lows to the 40s F, high 80s to 90s F, short afternoon showers common
  • Length: Four days between resupply
  • Where: Philmont Scout Ranch, Sangre de Christo mountains, New Mexico

Boy Scout Gear List: Philmont Scout Ranch, New Mexico, Summer - 2
Equipment check on day one, Philmont 2004.
Courtesy of Larry Keil, ASM, Troop 815, Danville, CA

Rationale for Selected Gear

The gear you carry is broken into five sections: Personal Equipment: Clothing; Personal Equipment: Gear; Personal Equipment: Sleep Systems; Crew Equipment Issued at Philmont; and Crew Equipment Provided by Your Crew.

1. Personal Equipment: Clothing

Philmont sets some standards that influence your clothing choices. They require completely separate sleep clothing, full rain suits (no ponchos), and long pants for various activities. These requirements dictate some of your choices, but still allow you to go fairly light.

Philmont requires long pants for some of the activities (spar pole climbing, horseback riding, conservation projects). These activities could conceivably be done in your rain pants. I tried this during my 2002 trek, but now my rain pants have numerous pieces of duct tape covering the holes I put in them at Philmont doing these activities. Since most people prefer to hike in shorts, a better solution would be a long pair of pants with zip-off legs. A good choice is the Ex-Officio Amphi Convertible Pant. In addition to zip-off legs, it has a built-in brief so that you do not need to bring underwear. For a shirt, I recommend one with an SPF-30 rating and sleeves you can roll up or down. RailRiders, Ex-Officio, and REI make nice shirts, among others. Another advantage of these shirts over T-shirts is that the fabric weave is much tighter making it hard for mosquitoes to bite through the shirt. Remember to treat your clothing with Permethrin prior to coming to Philmont. All you need to take is the one pair of zip-off pants and one hiking shirt for the whole trek. When you get a chance to shower at one of the staff camps wash your shirt, pants, and socks; put them back on and they will be dry usually in less than an hour. I take two pairs of hiking socks, one to wear and the other to change into part way though the day or when getting into camp.

Boots are not necessary since almost all hiking is done on well-worn trails, and your pack weight should be below 30 pounds. Running shoes with good tread will do fine, especially if they are trail runners. Make sure they are broken in before going. A wide brim hat finishes off your hiking clothing.

I have used Frogg Toggs at Philmont for rainwear. I combined them with an umbrella to keep the rain off my face. The umbrella also functions to keep my pack fairly dry. The Gossamer Gear Micropore Rain suit costs $25 versus $70 for Frogg Toggs and weighs less (10.3 oz vs. 16.2 oz). Several people in our crew tried the Micropore Rain Suit on my 2005 trek with mixed results. Some of the suits were really trashed after a 10-day trek. The consensus of our group was that the Frogg Toggs were a better choice, but for Scouts it's hard to overlook the low cost of the Micropore Rain suit.

You will also need to bring a warm sweater and/or jacket/vest. I found that a lightweight fleece or wool sweater works OK but adding a lightweight vest really keeps you toasty socializing with other groups at night. If you find you are getting cold due to wind, just wear your rain suit to act as a wind barrier. Don't use down exclusively for your insulation, in case it gets wet. Mix some wool, fleece, or high loft synthetics into your clothing line. I use a PossumDown (wool) sweater, Patagonia synthetic vest, and a down sleeping bag.

2. Personal Equipment: Gear

When I was in Philmont in 2002 I used a Gossamer Gear G4 pack with a trash compactor bag inside as waterproofing. The G4 worked well at Philmont but it seemed a bit too big even with the bulky food that you get issued. The Ranger was skeptical, but accepted my setup when I showed him I had everything on his list, and then some. In 2005 I used a Gossamer Gear G5 pack (silnylon version). This pack has a smaller volume than the G4, but my gear has also gotten a bit lighter and smaller. The Ranger never questioned me about the pack. Some members of our trek used a GoLite Gust pack (20 oz), and some the Granite Gear Virga (21 oz). The Virga has compression straps to secure the contents better than the Gust, but all the adults and Scouts were happy with their selections. Some of the others took heavier packs that they have owned for a while but are cutting down on other weighty items. Most lightweight packs will work at Philmont if you get total weights to less than 25 pounds with food and water. You need to keep a big enough area in the pack to carry about four days of food, which is usually the most they issue at any one time. Plan on the space for this food to be approximately the size of a bear canister but made up of numerous smaller packages. When the food is issued, go through the food bags and remove items that you and your food group will not use.

Take your water containers of preference. A bladder system, such as Platypus or CamelBak, helps you easily stay hydrated. Bring enough water containers to hold at least 4 liters so that the nights you are in a dry camp you will have water for the morning. If everyone has an extra 2-3 liters of water you do not need to carry the Philmont extra water containers, thus saving a little bit of weight. One other suggestion when going into a dry camp: eat your dinner for lunch near a water source, since dinners require water, whereas lunches and breakfasts are usually dry.

I carry my small pocketknife, whistle, and a couple of photon lights on a necklace so I know where everything is when I need it. The other personal gear you will need are a plastic bowl, cup for hot liquids and a spoon for eating. Some other items are a small propane lighter, personal first aid kit, medicines, sunglasses, and a "stash" of coffee if you are a big coffee drinker. If you really need your caffeine, chocolate-coated coffee beans were really popular on our 2002 and 2005 treks. Remember to bring two cotton bandanas, one for cooking with and one for personal needs.

Boy Scout Gear List: Philmont Scout Ranch, New Mexico, Summer - 5
Troop 257 group photo after arriving back at base camp at the conclusion of their 2005 trek. Tent City, where everyone spends their first and last night at Philmont, is in the background.
Courtesy of Doug Prosser, ASM, Troop 257, Ventura County Council, CA

3. Personal Equipment: Sleep Systems

Philmont requires separate sleeping clothes from the clothing you wear during the day. This is because your hiking clothes could be contaminated with spilled food, thus leaving odors on your clothing that bears might be attracted to while you sleep. Philmont is very serious about bear avoidance. They spend a lot of time teaching your crew the "Philmont" way to prevent bear attraction. Please do not challenge them on these issues, just go with the flow. They have been very successful in preventing most bear attacks with thousands of Scouts going through the Ranch, always camping in the same fixed locations. Your sleep clothing choices depend on a) whether you sleep warm or cold, and b) the rest of your sleep system. Night temperatures are rarely colder than the low 40s. I sleep cold, so I wear lightweight fleece pants with a long sleeve synthetic shirt and sleep socks that double as shoulder pads on the G5 pack. I add, as needed, a lightweight beanie, wool sweater, and vest.

Philmont requires a tent; no tarps or bivies are allowed. They do not require that a tent have an integrated floor, so many lightweight options are available. The Scouts in 2002 and 2005 used the Mountain Hardwear Kiva, which holds up to four Scouts. Our Scoutmaster and I used the Betamid in 2002, and this year we purchased a Betamid Light to save even more weight. Some people use bathtub-type ground cloths, because the campgrounds are all very hard and flat, thus allowing water to pool around the tents. A flat ground sheet will work fine, however, if you pay attention when setting up your camp, just like you would on any other camping trip.

As I've aged I have migrated to thicker and thicker sleeping pads, to increase the quality of my sleep on the hard ground at Philmont. I am currently using the Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Pad at 25 ounces. In 2005, three of our crew slept on the Big Agnes pads.

In 2002, I used a three-quarter length thin Therm-a-Rest combined with my Therm-a-Rest Ridge Rest closed cell foam pad and a Western Mountaineering MityLite sleeping bag. In a tent, a 30-40 degree bag will work well when combined with some of your insulation layers and a hat. In 2005, I used a Pertex Quantum Arc X down bag, which is both warmer and lighter than the MityLite. I was much warmer sleeping with the Arc X and I may need to lighten my sleep clothing for the next Philmont trek. One other topic that concerns people at night is bugs. We really had no problems with bugs in 2002 and 2005; I never even had to use any Deet or my head net.

Boy Scout Gear List: Philmont Scout Ranch, New Mexico, Summer - 4
Fish Camp just after Troop 257 has finished setting up camp in the rain. The Scouts under the 8'x10' silnylon dining fly are breaking out the food packets for dinner and getting the cooking started. Note the Micropore Rainsuits, two Mountain Hardwear Kiva shelters, Black Diamond Betamid (purple/white), and Black Diamond Beta Light (blue/gray silnylon). Philmont, 2005.
Courtesy of Doug Prosser, ASM, Troop 257, Ventura County Council, CA

4. Crew Equipment Issued at Philmont

Philmont will issue gear to your crew if you do not bring your own. The Philmont gear is heavy and designed to take the constant abuse that Scouts can deliver. If you plan well you will not have to take much of Philmont's heavy gear. Below is a discussion of the gear listed in "Philmont 2005 Guidebook to Adventure."

The first item is a nylon dining fly (12'x12') weighing about 4 pounds. Its two collapsible poles weigh about 1 pound. Instead, have your crew take a silnylon tarp at least 8'x10' along with extra titanium stakes and lightweight line. In place of the dining fly poles, our crew used two hiking poles velcroed together to give them added height, just single poles if we wanted to keep the tarp low. For whatever reason, our Ranger did not want us to tie our dining fly to trees.

Do not use the Philmont tents, since they weigh about 5.5 pounds for two people. There are many current lightweight options under 2 pounds per Scout (see above). The cook kits Philmont provides range from 4-6 pounds per cook group and cutlery kits weigh 0.5 pound. Each cook group needs a 6-8 liter pot (4 liters is a bit small), and a 2-liter pot for some desserts. Another option for desserts is to mix them in plastic bags. We did this in 2005 with good success; only one dessert bag blew up on a Scout who was too rough with it. Leave the fry pan at home. The whole crew will need one other 6-8 liter pot to boil water for sterilizing eating utensils and for washing. Philmont is really big on regularly sterilizing your eating and cooking gear. The only cutlery item you need is a large spoon and a serving cup with a handle. Leave the spatula at home.

Due to the Philmont logistics, we always use two stoves, when in theory we could get by with only one. Many of the memorable activities at Philmont happen in late afternoon and early evening. The Scouts want to get out there for those activities as fast as possible. One stove for cooking and another stove to boil water means our crew can finish their meals and get out to the activities much faster. In my opinion this is worth the added weight of a second stove.

The next item from the Philmont cook kit is hot-pot tongs (two pairs), weighing about 0.5 pounds. I never saw a use for these since we bring a cooking bandana (our only cotton item) that works great for grabbing hot items.

The next item on the list is a camp shovel, weighing about 1 pound. This is a relic of early days when latrines were dug at each camp. Today every campsite has an outhouse, so we leave this behind.

The next items are plastic trash bags, salt, and pepper. The packets in which you carry your food provide sufficient space to stuff your trash, but trash bags may come in handy as emergency rain wear if a Scout's rain gear gets lost. The salt and pepper are in small individual packets, which generate a lot of small pieces of trash. A better option is to bring a small container of each, along with some additional spices for your trail meals.

Philmont provides scrub pads, toilet paper, and small containers of both dishwashing soap and hand sanitizer. We also bring additional hand sanitizer bottles with us so that we have them readily available when cooking, eating, or returning from the outhouse. We think this is one of the most important aspects of avoiding sickness on the trail.

Philmont also provides Katadyn Micropur water purification tablets, a variety of other cleaning equipment, and bear bags and ropes. Philmont uses a plastic strainer to filter food particles out of wash water and drain it into an underground sump. A spatula is used to scoop the larger food particles from the strainer to be thrown in your trash. I feel a fine mesh screen circle, 6-8 inches in diameter, could accomplish the same function as the plastic strainer, and the spatula could be replaced with a small thin flat piece of plastic like a credit card. I'll be doing this next trip to Philmont.

5. Equipment Provided by Your Crew

This section addresses those miscellaneous gear items that your crew may bring with them that will not be supplied by Philmont.

Philmont recommends a sewing kit with heavy thread and needle. During our past treks we brought a "hotel" sewing kit but we never used it for anything other than draining blisters.

Bring enough tent stakes to put up all your tents, plus the dining fly (in windy conditions) instead of the recommended 10 per person.

Two to three collapsible water containers, 2.5 gallons each are recommended so that when you go to dry camps your crew can bring extra water. In 2002, a number of us brought extra Platypus 2.5 liter containers and in 2005 a few of the crew brought 2.5 gallon containers that they could inflate and use as pillows at night. Either way works fine but it is convenient having some larger containers. I also recommend that you have the crew fill all their water containers and purify them prior to going to bed so you can hit the trail immediately in the morning. You usually need to remind the Scouts to make sure this happens.

Two or three backpacking stoves are recommended. We brought two MSR Simmerlight stoves. Since we had two stoves, we did not bring a repair kit, but we did bring two, 33-ounce and one, 12-ounce fuel containers. We ended up with way too much fuel. I think that a 33-ounce fuel container per stove will provide adequate fuel in between food/fuel pick-ups.

One crew first aid kit is required but the list of items in the kit Philmont suggests is a bit much. Our first aid kit was not any different than we take on a weekend trek. Every Ranger staffed camp has extensive first aid supplies, trained first-aid providers, and the ability to transport people out of the backcountry, so you will not need to provide care for multiple days.

Our crew brought along duct tape wrapped around each of our hiking poles. The duct tape was used for a number of things during the trek but the most important was to patch holes and tears in Micropore Rain suits.

One waterproof ground cloth (5'6" x 7'6") per tent is recommended, but we only brought the ground cloth that came with our tents and did not bring this item. Three 50-foot lengths of 1/8 inch nylon cord are recommended but we only brought two 50-foot lengths that we mainly used for tying up the dining fly. We could have saved some weight here by using the AirCore line to tie up our dining fly.

One adult in 2005 brought along a picture guide to plants which some of the boys found interesting. Our crew brought one 4-ounce bottle of sunscreen, one 2.5-ounce tube of 3M Ultrathon insect repellant, and no shampoo. In three treks to Philmont I have never felt a need to use insect repellant so this may be another area to save a little weight. We do bring a small bar of soap for showers and/or use a little Camp Suds.


Boy Scout Gear List: Philmont Scout Ranch, New Mexico, Summer - 3
Untangling bear bagging ropes, Philmont 2004.
Courtesy of Larry Keil, ASM, Troop 815, Danville, CA

I have shown you a way to solve one of the two reasons for failure at Philmont: carrying too much weight. The other reason for failure is lack of training before going to Philmont. The people who walk regularly had no real problems hiking around Philmont while those who did no real training were hard pressed at times to complete the day's hike. All adults and any Scouts who are not playing sports in high school need to get out and walk five to seven days per week. Everyone who has not done this has slowed down our crew whether adult or Scout. When walking, carry a daypack or the backpack that you will be taking to Philmont. Each week you are walking, increase the weight in your pack by 3-5 pounds until it is a little above what you will carry at Philmont. In 2002, my training route took me past a supermarket where I would stop every other day and buy a bag of dried beans or peas and throw them in my pack until I had 30 pounds to carry. Each week, increase the distance that you are walking until you are doing 3-5+ miles daily. Try to plan your route such that you include some hills. Have your crew plan weekend treks twice a month for a few months before going to Philmont so that you all can learn to work as a team. Refine your gear list until you have it optimized.

With the steps described above you and your Scouts will enjoy the trip of a lifetime, and just maybe get to come back one day with you children and even possibly your grandchildren.

My gear list for Philmont follows. It includes specific brands and models/styles of gear for reference only. This list neither represents an endorsement of any particular product nor suggests that any product listed is the best choice in the context of any particular situation. The list is easily adaptable for Scouts and Leaders and each person's specific needs.

Philmont Gear List
hat with brimwide-brimmed hatDorfman Pacific4.3120
hiking shirtshort sleeve wicking shirtTroop Cool-max shirt5.0140
hiking pantslong zip-off pants with built-in briefsEx Offficio Amphi Convertible 12.8364
hiking sockslightweight merino wool or Coolmax trail running socksThorlo Lite Walking Level 2 Mini-crew Socks2.982
hiking shoesbreathable, lightweight trail shoesLowa Vento II, size 1346.41316
bandanacottonSurvival Bandana x 2 (one for cooking; one for everything else)3.288
watchmultifunction: compass, altimeter and timeSuunto Vector1.954
neck cordnylon line - holds light, whistle, knife, can-openerKelty Triptease line - reflects light at night, easier to find2.570
lightersmall butane lighter, without child lockscheapest on the market0.514
eye glasses casecombination glasses case and retainerBackpacking Light Hides TechnoSkin Sunglass Case/Retainers0.615
eye glassesprescription-0.720
sun glassesclip-on sun glasses and case-1.438
hiking polesadjustable poles with duct tape wrapped on Komperdell Pro Series AS 21.2600
insulation layerwool shirtPossumDown Sweater, XL10.3390
insulation vestsynthetic vestPatagonia Micro Puff6.0170
rain/wind suitjacket and pantsGossamer Gear Micropore Rainsuit (pants XL 4.2 oz, jacket XL 5.5 oz)9.7460
warm hatwool or fleece beanie/watch capgeneric lightweight beanie1.234
sleep pantsfleece pantsREI Polartec 100 Teton Pants, large10.3290
sleep shirtnylon short or long sleeve t-shirtLL Bean synthetic shirt8.0226
sleep sockwarm socks/used as pads on pack's shoulder strapsunknown brand3.7106
extra hiking socklightweight merino wool or Coolmax trail running socksThorlo Lite Walking Level 2 Mini-crew Socks2.982
overhead shelterlightweight tentBlack Diamond Beta Light ($140)22.0622
overhead shelterlightweight flooring for tentBlack Diamond Betamid Floor ($55, 20 oz, partner carries)0.00
tent stakesstandard, shaped like shepherd's crooktitanium stakes (6) (2 oz, partner carries)0.00
sleeping baglightweight downPertex Quantum Arc X Variable Girth Down Sleeping Bag16.4466
sleeping padthick inflatable pad (my one comfort!)Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Pad Mummy, extra-long25.0710
backpacklightweightGossamer Gear G5 Ultralight Backpack, silnylon version, size small7.7216
waterproof linertrash bag to protect clothing from water and for emergenciestrash compactor bag with two extras6.9198
sleeping padclosed cell foam cut down to use as frame for packTherm-a-Rest Ridge Rest 3/4 length closed cell pad-cut down 7.0196
utensilspoonLexan soup spoon0.38
dishplastic margarine container, smallany brand1.850
spicespersonal usehot pepper0.926
cupplastic 8-12 oz cup able to take boiling waterfree plastic cup from Family Fun Cuts that fits in cook kit0.824
water bottles3 liter sipper w/ tubeCamelBak insulated 100 oz Unbottle9.5272
extra water bottle2.5 liter, empty except for dry campsPlatypus 3 liter1.028
mapswax coatedPhilmont official map and plastic bag5.3150
first aid/medicationsminor wound care assorted wound and blister care items, antimicrobial ointment2.057
hand sanitizer2 oz bottle for pre-cooking/eating and post-bathroomleast expensive available3.085
toilet papernon-scented toilet papersmall amount in plastic zip-lock bag6.0168
personal hygieneteeth and body cleaning kit small toothbrush, small toothpaste, small soap in zip-lock bags2.057
lip balmSPF 15 or higher-0.38
bug barrierhead netCampmor Backpacker No-See-Um Head net0.822
umbrellalightweight umbrella folds smallMontBell umbrella5.7160
foodPhilmont provided 3lbs/day/personAverage 2 days carried (Best Guess!!!)96.0454
wateraverage carried - 2 liters2 L64.01814
water treatmentchlorine dioxide based treatmentKatadyn Micropur Purification tablets 0.38
TREK SHARED GEAR (split between 10 people on trek)
stove and windscreenlightweight White GasMSR SimmerLite stove and windscreen x 2 (13.8 oz each)27.6773
fuel bottles and fuelwhite gasMSR 33 oz bottle x 2 (estimate 2 lbs each)64.01792
cookpotlightweight aluminum or titanium, 4-6 quart4 liter aluminum pots x 3 (10.8 oz each)32.4907
guylines100 feet nylon rope 1/8 inch or lessREI Braided Nylon Cord, 1/8 inch, 100 ft5.6160
dining fly10' x10' lightweight tarpsilnylon 10' x 8' + 4 titanium stakes16.0454
first aid kitexpedition size kit with common medicationsAdventure Medical Kit Weekender with some additions23.0650
spices-salt and pepper4.0113
cooking utensilsspoon and spatulaMSR folding large spoons x 2 and 1 spatula2.776
bear bags and ropePhilmont provided3 bags (0.5 lb each) and 1-150 ft, 1/4 inch rope (2.5 lbs)64.01811
sunscreenSPF 30 or higher4 oz bottle5.4152
insect repellantDeet based3M UltraThon insect repellant2.572
sewing kitsmallhotel kit0.12
repair kitminimalnylon ties, pins, clevis pins (if needed), stick of hot glue2.056
plastic strainerFrisbee styleprovided by Philmont8.0224
dish soapbiodegradable3 oz Camp Suds3.496
scrub padssmall2 cut down scrub pads0.612
hand sanitizeralcohol based4 oz Purell x210.0283
camera digital camera and extra batteriesPentax Optio S 509.0255


(1) Total Weight Worn or Carried6.52.9
(2) Total Base Weight in Pack11.05.0
(3) Total Weight of Consumables10.04.5
(4) Total weight of Trek Shared Gear1.80.8
(5) Total Initial Pack Weight (2) + (3) + (4)22.810.4
(6) Full Skin Out Weight (1) + (2) + (3) + (4)29.313.3

New Boy Scouts Gear List for Three-Season Mild Conditions - 3

About the Author

Doug Prosser is an Assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 257 in the Ventura County Council, California with 11 years experience. He lives in Camarillo, which is located on the coast in southern California between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. He has participated in numerous hikes in the local mountains and has planned many treks into the High Sierras for his Troop. He attended Philmont Scout Ranch as a Scout and as a leader, most recently in 2005. He started out with 50+ pound packs and continues to lighten his load, always looking for a better way of backpacking. His friends have dubbed his garage "Doug's Camping World." Doug has a strong interest in teaching both kids and adults how to enjoy backpacking. He continues to train and gear up for an extended trek on the Pacific Crest Trail within the next few years. Doug can be contacted at


"Boy Scout Gear List: Philmont Scout Ranch, New Mexico, Summer," by Doug Prosser. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2006-04-19 03:00:00-06.


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Michael Fogarty
(mfog1) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: Re: Tents versus tarps on 07/20/2007 18:07:56 MDT Print View

I wish you wouldn't have told me this? I know of one group of people that camp in tarps exclusively and in heavy black bear territory of nothern Ontario, and I don't think they've had any problems.
But, then again, they usually travel in a party with a least 4 or more people as well. This group does mostly off-trail, bush-whack trips for the most part too.
In a way it does make sense being a little safer in a tent. If a bear comes into camp and is just sniffing around, and bumps into your tent, this may be enough to stop their curious advances?
But, if your sound asleep, and your arm is laying outside the front of your tarp, a bear could come into direct contact with you much easier this way, and might be more inclined to advance further?

Edited by mfog1 on 07/20/2007 18:09:48 MDT.

Michael Sagehorn
(msagehorn) - F
Re: Philmont/ Double H high adventure base on 07/22/2007 23:52:55 MDT Print View

While I have been reading all about Philmont since 1967(when I was a Cub Scout)and have enjoyed my limited travels in New Mexico, I have reasoned that it sounds more like an expensive and perhaps miserable place to take Scouts backpacking.

I have figured that with the Sierra Nevada so close and the weather more benign in the summer, I can take my unit on some great treks without the black bull patch for their jackets.

I have hiked all over the country and world, and yes sometimes with a rifle and a Marine Corps uniform, but I think an adventure in California, or Colorado, or even the Virginina Blue Ridge is more rewarding than waiting in a lottery or dealing with BSA's ideas about the right gear.

Mike Barney
(eaglemb) - F

Locale: AZ, the Great Southwest!
More to Philmont than just hiking on 07/23/2007 08:23:51 MDT Print View

I'd agree with much of what you wrote:
It's not a cheap hike
I've heard the Philmont lottery compared to both the Powerball and Draft lotteries
The weather can be challenging
The altitude (6-9K) appeared to be a challenge for many sea level based troops
BSA is moving toward lighter gear, but they're also mindful that a lot of kids can't afford a $100 backpack or down bag

On the other hand, there is a lot more to Philmont than just hiking:
Great programs tailored to what your crew wants
Structured program with significant safety nets
A subtle classroom in teamwork
Supports treks that don't require highly experienced leaders (not every crew get's an adult who is a Marine)
Ability for the boys (and adults) to deal with changing conditions

Robert Gates, current SecDef, said of his management skills that he "learned everything he needed to know about management at Philmont".

One of the greatest days we had it was pouring down rain, our bear bag had been swiped / borrowed / ??? and our gear ended up in the mud. It was about 45 degrees and raining / hailing at dinner, but our boys figured out how to 'improvise, adapt, overcome', and had a great time.

Yep, you can certainly do it closer and cheaper, but I don't think the experience will be the same.

I appreciate your service to the country.


Edited by eaglemb on 07/23/2007 08:27:31 MDT.

Charles Bilz
(denalijoe) - F

Locale: California
RE: Philmont High Adventure Base on 07/23/2007 10:16:04 MDT Print View

I agree 100% with you that there are far more challenging and intresting hikes in the California's Sierra Nevada's and Colorado's Rocky Mountains.

I have been to Philmont twice with my troop and both times it was a very disappointing experience. The two year wait list, lottery, cost, and Philmont's idea about what the "right gear" is is just not worth the aggravation.

And Mike, your troop meetings should be teaching your boys teamwork and preparing them to deal with changing conditions. Troop meeting and outings are the best free management schools available to young men.

The only up-side to going to Philmont was getting the Black Bull. Big Deal.

david edelstein
(dedelstein) - F

Locale: texas gulf coast
gear question on 07/30/2007 21:13:05 MDT Print View

Just got back from a High Adventure program hiking/biking/flyfishing at Camp Whitsett California/ Sequoia National Forest/Kern River Golden Trout Wilderness. It was a fabulous experience and probably more minimalist than Philmont according to our guide who had led similar treks at Philmont. Lightweight gear saved the trip but that is another thread.

One thing that I haven't found in gear lists or in discussions is hygiene. One part of the forest was open range and the number of cows and the filth from cow pies everywhere made us real nervous about this, especially with the runoff into the river. There was fine sandy dust everywhere. We filtered most of the water here and used a bit of bleach. Later on higher in the mountains away from the cattle used aquamira. We used two lightweight plastic shoe boxes(the covers served as cutting boards for the fish we caught) to wash dishes. We used large zip lock bags to keep food separate from gear and then turned them inside out to wash clothes. In looking at the many gear lists I never see items listed for this purpose. I've noticed the Sea to Summit sinks and wonder what people are using and methods of backcountry cleaning, both dishes (i.e what methods are people using--camp suds, single rinse? double rinse with bleach?) and clothing.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: gear question on 07/31/2007 00:24:53 MDT Print View


Cursory treatment of the subject, but start here, perhaps:

Backcountry Hygiene article @BPL

Bruce Tolley

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Phlmont Trek on 08/15/2007 20:14:14 MDT Print View

Thanks for the excellent article.

My crew of 8 Scouts and 4 parents just completed a 70+ mike trek with some great side hikes. The recommendations on cutting down the weight of the common gear were very helpful. We had two folks on a special menu and took three Simmerlite stoves, but probably could have gotten by with one. During one hail and lightening storm I had to get out the storm matches to light the two Simmerlites under the one pot dinner (and was wishing for an isobutane stove.

Altogther, among the many postings and articles I read to prepare, this article and the wiki article on Philmont were the best. I only wish Philmont had better weather reporting. During our trek we encountered 1 to 2 inches of rain on two of our hiking days.

Wesley Witt

Locale: Northwest
Philmont Trek on 01/17/2008 23:13:39 MST Print View

Great article and very helpful. I'm a scout leader and we finally received a lottery slot for 2009. The information presented here will help us to have more successful trek.

As to the question of whether Philmont is "worth it", I cannot really judge since I have not been yet. However the program looks like it presents a very fun and exciting time for the boys. In looking at the various Philmont treks it really doesn't look nearly as challenging as many other treks I've been on -- in terms of daily mileage and altitude. I lead a group of 11 scouts to the Sierras last summer where we hiked from Onion Valley to the summit of Mt Whitney and then returned over Shepherds pass. We did an average of 10 miles per day all at 10,000 - 14,497 feet in altitude. It was very strenuous, but too much fun! Comparing this to Philmont makes Philmont look like a walk in the park. I think that there are in fact many other treks that you can do that are just as much fun and just as challenging, but I think you get something at Philmont that is unavailable anywhere else. I am curious about the difficulty. Do people claim that it is so difficult simply because they are unprepared and out of shape?


Mina Loomis
(elmvine) - MLife

Locale: Central Texas
Pecos Wilderness as alternative to Philmont on 01/18/2008 09:14:57 MST Print View

Well I was trying to quote part of a previous post and apparently blundered into some html thing with those little arrows and lost my whole post. I will try again.

Quote from a previous post: "Philmont is a nice place, but experienced troop leaders might do better to consider the Pecos Wilderness, a few miles farther west. It has real mountains - although they are still walk-ups. You hike all the time at higher altitudes than Philmont achieves. You can get above timberline and out of the green tunnel. You can plan a hike of just about any challenge or duration. The country is spectacular. Kids never fail to be impressed. I know you don't get a Philmont shirt, so I guess patch baggers would be disappointed."

My comment, reconstructed: When doing research on Pecos Wilderness a few years ago I found this site, by the BSA council out of Las Cruces: From their site it appears to be a well-thought-out program, and includes a nice set of patches, although I suppose not iconic like Philmont.

I have no direct experience with BSA (although my husband went to Philmont as a teen in the early 1970's)--we are doing Camp Fire (because it's inclusive). I coordinate the backpacking for Balcones Council here in Austin, and we have taken groups of teens (boys and girls both) to Pecos Wilderness a number of times. It is spectacular, especially for kids from Texas, with plenty of challenge, scenery, and wildlife.

Edited by elmvine on 01/18/2008 09:47:39 MST.

Alan Marcum
(ammpilot) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
Philmont Experience - Worth It on 01/18/2008 12:35:39 MST Print View

There are a few questions in this thread about whether a Philmont trek is worth it, and some comments about other places to go backpacking for the summer.

Philmont is worth it!

But, Philmont is not a wilderness backpacking experience. Philmont is Scout camp, with one of the coolest twists imaginable.

Think about normal, ordinary Scout camp, like your local Council probably runs. Lots of Scouting activities--fishing, rifle shooting, archery, hiking, leatherwork, boating, swimming, rock climbing, etc.--all clustered around a central location. At Philmont, you get lots of those activities (well, except those needing a lake), but the activity centers aren't a simple 5 or 10 minute walk away: they're 5 or 10 MILES away, and you backpack between them.

Some of the camps don't have activities: they're just for camping (for example, Mount Phillips). Most do, though.

Anyone going to Philmont expecting a week and a half of backpacking in the wilderness will be sorely disappointed. That's not to say you can't just go backpacking at Philmont, especially on some of the longer treks in the northern part of the reservation. It's just not the typical Philmont experience. I love backpacking in the wilderness. And, I want to go baaack to Philmont!

Douglas Prosser
(daprosser) - MLife

Locale: Camarillo, California (SCAL)
Off to another trek at Philmont on 08/02/2008 00:26:10 MDT Print View

I'm off tomorrow AM for another Philmont trek. When I canme off trail last year my pack was 16 lbs. My pack this time without food & fuel is 7.5 lbs. Our crew is using extremely light group gear so I hope my pack weight leave basecamp will be less than 15 lbs. The group that I enrolled with (Trekking 1 couse Desert Southwest) have helped me lower my packweight even lower than I thought. I share an update when we return after 8/18.

david edelstein
(dedelstein) - F

Locale: texas gulf coast
philmont on 08/02/2008 19:43:59 MDT Print View

Have a great time--I thought I was doing well at 35# fully loaded with food and 4 L of water, and 2 1/2 # of fly fishing gear. Did you give all the crew gear to the kids? Looking forward to your gear list. We were there June 9-22 and had a wonderful time.

paul buzzard
(troop208) - F
pack weight vs. $ on 08/04/2008 06:35:21 MDT Print View


You did fine IMO. I was right there, #33 with 4 liters of water and 4 days food starting out from base camp. I had a one pound stool that was my saving grace, and never empty when I wasn't sitting in it. Our boys and parents didn't want to buy all new stuff for Philmont, and weren't planning on being backpackers in the future. So they mostly went with what they had accumulated over the years. Mr. Prosser has a lot of new gear and a lot more money to spend then our group. Or at least that is what he wants to spend money on, lol. Our scouts were right around 35-40# with full start out loads as noted above. Best I could do to encourage light weight was get them to invest in down bags and lighter weight rain gear. That saved space and weight. Everyone was fine with the hike, (we did #29) which had some serious hikes in it. Practicing a few times right before leaving helped. Only boy who had to give up some weight was our smallest guy, #95, whose pack weighed #42 when leaving. He would melt on the big ups the first couple days, and we took about 7-10 pounds off him twice. After that, he was fine, and we only ever had two days of food to carry.

david edelstein
(dedelstein) - F

Locale: texas gulf coast
pack weight on 08/04/2008 21:25:40 MDT Print View

my gear included: Gossamer gear mariposa pack, Big Agnes Horse Thief with Air Core pad, REI Down pillow, Dri Ducks rain suit (used it once for 30 minutes) Big Agnes Cyclone SL (6 oz) chair (used a couple of times but maybe next time a folding chair), one pair zip off pants, Mountain Hardware jacket, smartwool long underwear top and pants (we were there in early June and it got down to 36 many of the mornings and I hate being cold), one pair lined running shorts, one short sleeve underarmor T shirt, one long sleeve underarmor heavy turtleneck, one long sleeve hiking shirt, two pair underarmor boxers, three pairs of socks and liners (I like changing socks and washing them frequently--no blisters the whole time), wool cap, gloves. Used hiking poles but didn't add them as pack weight. Crew gear that I carried: tent and stove repair kit, tarp tent Rainbow (split poles and Tyvek with partner) spice kit, first aid kit (1 1/2 #) with all the meds, plus share of the food.
It did cost $ to get lighter but it was worth every penny. I would sure like to know where you can cut it further.

Scott Bentz
(scottbentz) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
How to cut weight further? on 08/11/2008 17:53:16 MDT Print View

One way is to take your own ropes, tents, stoves, packs, etc. The Philmont issued equip. is real durable but real heavy. I think where we saved our weight was in our base layer, i.e., Packs (GG Mariposa Plus, Go-Lite Jam & Pinnacle, GG G-4, etc.), Sleeping bags (WM Summerlite, MB SS #5, etc.), Tents (GG The One, Tarptent Contrail & Dbl. Rainbow, etc., Groundcloth (GG polycro or Tyvek). Rope (7/64 Amsteel Blue), Pots 4 qt not 8 qt. Don't cook in the pot! We used their bear bags and frisbee sump since they wouldn't let us use our paint strainers.

That's all stuff you have to carry no matter what. If you can get that weight down it's a good start. Take as few clothes as possible. It's easy to wash at Philmont. Take just enough canisters since you can buy them in the comisaries. Take smaller pots and cook in turkey bags or just do what we did; cook in you own cups. Very little clean up. Very little to sump.

We all went out fully loaded with water and food from 22.5 lbs to 30 lbs. I know that does not seem lightweight, but at Philmont it really is! It can be done for less but for a group of 12 I was glad that all were in a respectable zone and no one was way over. The norm at Philmont is easily 43 lbs.

I carried a few items I wish I hadn't. Zip off pants not needed. Just use Dry Duck pants. Too many undergarments. Can wash often. I also carried a 4 qt. pot that we only used once and really didn't need. I would take a 4 qt. and 6 qt. pot. All in all, we were an extremely lightweight crew. I went out with 22.5 lbs. with all my food and water on first day. Heavier than normal but I was just fine.


Tony Burnett
(tlbj6142) - F

Locale: OH--IO
Re: How to cut weight further? on 08/11/2008 18:16:44 MDT Print View

>>>>Rope (7/64 Amsteel Blue)

I thought I read you can't take your own bear rope? Did the rules change? Or is it just hit-or-miss depending on who inspects your gear.

david edelstein
(dedelstein) - F

Locale: texas gulf coast
philmont gear on 08/11/2008 19:17:04 MDT Print View

We ended up using the Philmont bear bags and rope not knowing how much stuff you needed to hang. With all the food plus all the smellables and trash we were regularly hanging six bags initally after food pickups. I'm not sure they would let you use your own with their way of doing things. The cable is pretty abrasive and I don't know how lightweight stuff would work. Anyone do anything differently?

paul buzzard
(troop208) - F
gear on 08/13/2008 08:05:06 MDT Print View

We got back in mid July. Cleveland OH contingent. Regarding bear ropes, IMO, hit or miss, depending on ranger. The stated policy is use Philmont rope. We had a new ranger, 5th trip out. She wasn't going to bend, and luckily for me, on a pre trip shake down meeting organized by our council, I met the son of our organizer, who is a 2nd year ranger there. He said if you buy good rope, it is OK. And by better luck, he is at base camp, getting ready to go out the day our crew was. I had to get him to intervene with our ranger to get the rope allowed. It is the Amsteel rope, and it was perfect. He did and we used it, but I don't know what would have happened if he wasn't there. If you buy alternative rope, I would suggest printing out the specs of it vs. the philmont rope and bring with you to prove its' strength. This I think, validly, that is what they are worried about. 4 days food with person smellables is a large load to hoist. We used the Philmont way, and it worked fine, as far as getting the bags onto the rope. We had a 150' length on the main rope, and 100' on the oops bag, which was overkill, length wise. We used a pulley on the oops bag, but a biner would be also fine. The rope was very tough and no wear issue.

Alan Moore
(Alan_In_AZ) - F

Locale: Sunny Southwest
More on gear on 09/22/2008 22:30:11 MDT Print View

I agree with others - Philmont is a lot different than a true wilderness experience - its the activities, staffed camps, music, basecamp & traditions that make it special. Many of the treks are not that hard - though the altitude can affect some. We climbed Mt. Baldy which added some challenge.

If you train well for fitness, crew spirit and gear evaluation/familiarity its not such a big deal. We trained hiking mountains (800'-1500') prety much weekly for 6 months and did 3 campouts - an overnight a 2 day and a 4 day. Nobody attended everything but overall it was a good balance. We worked mostly on bringing up the guys who needed the most help - everyone was fit for the trip and we had good team spirit before we even started.

We used 3 jetboil PCS's for a crew of 12 - we used them 2 ways - individually boiling water in the jetboil pots and combining and also with the GCS potstands to heat water in one of the big Philmont pots. It worked really well - however our ranger said he'd never seen it before! Of course the jetboils were fast & great for tea & coffee too. The higher elevation makes them work better - it wasn't ever cold enough to be a problem.

We contemplated a lightwight dining fly but didn't get one - next time I'd do this too - its probably twice as heavy/bulky as it needs to be.

We used one Philmont rope for bear bagging but it was also very bulky - may try different next time. We did also use paracord and a biner/pulley combination just for the Oops bag which was actually mostly individually ditty bags - much more convenient and easier for one to operate.

We did bring mostly ultralight tents - 1 pair had a Philmont tent & the weight was about 2x and bulk maybe heading towards to 2x.

After talking to several crews who had been before I ended up taking 3 different seats... (of sorts). A trail stool <1Lb 7oz, a Thermarest lite seat (3.5oz) which I also use as a sleeping pillow/lumbar support/footrest and a thermarest trekker chair 10.5oz which I use with my thermarest prolite-4 sleeping pad. While it seems like overkill - I always had a taker for any empty chair and was always comfortable for <2.5lbs. No regrets on that one!

In our gear checkout our ranger spent over 50 minutes checking our gear - and asked lots of questions - but ultimately did not object to anything.

My total weight with water, group gear and 4 days food was about 40lbs - quite comfortable for me.


Edited by Alan_In_AZ on 09/23/2008 21:14:02 MDT.

Scott Bentz
(scottbentz) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Amsteel Rope on 09/25/2008 18:56:45 MDT Print View

Some one said: "The cable is pretty abrasive and I don't know how lightweight stuff would work. Anyone do anything differently?"

Amsteel rope is what we used. It worked perfectly. It's a lot lighter and a lot less bulky than the Philmont issue. The Ranger had no problem with it. When I got home I took the knots out of the rope to put away for storage. I did not see any signs of wear whatsoever on the rope. It's quite bullet proof.

The one problem with the rope is that the 7/64 is quite thin so it's a bit hard on the hands with heavy loads. Use a stick wrapped around the rope to help avoid rope burns.